Monday, April 13, 2009
Missed Opportunities, Nats Stay Winless in '09 Home Opener
They say the loneliest number of them all is 1. On a day that saw the Nationals knock out three homeruns, receive a five hit performance by Christian Guzman, and tag the Phillies pitching staff for 12 hits as a team, they still managed to wind up on the wrong side of a 9-8 score. Now, the Nationals look like a ball club that would be satisfied with just 1.
"We're going to figure it out. I don't know if it's going to be tomorrow or it's going to be June," said left fielder Adam Dunn who homered and made an error in his Nationals Park debut. "I promise: We're going to figure it out."
Things are getting so bad present elect Barack Obama turned down the Nationals' offer to throw out the first pitch on opening day. Rumor has it that the President was concerned that if the ceremonial first pitch was a strike he would have to stay on and pitch through the first. Okay, I made that up. But after watching Daniel Cabrera struggle with the strike zone all afternoon in front of 40,386 fans, I think Manny would consider all options at this point. I hear Barack Obama stays in pretty good shape too.
"We need to hold the opposition to fewer than six, seven, eight runs. Then we'll have a chance to win," Acta said. "Our offense hasn't been our biggest problem. Yes , we have left some runners in scoring position, but I think the main thing is, we can't be allowing eight, nine runs every day."
Anderson Hernandez's season debut was of no help to the Nationals' struggling pitching staff . Hernandez booted a routine ground ball in the third inning which seemingly rattled Cabrera, who proceeded to walk Pedro Feliz to load the bases and then walked Chris Coste to force in a run. Hernandez wouldn't be done; misplaying another routine ground ball later in the game leading to another Phillies' rally. The Nats' defensive woes weren't limited to the keystone, but also in the outfield, which saw Adam Dunn would get eaten up by a lazy line drive. Dunn took a sharp route to the ball which lead to him being caught in, and eaten up by, a tweener hop. They would finish the day with three errors. Any means necessary.
Daniel Cabrera was never comfortable on the mound. All afternoon Cabrera toyed with his mechanics, threw from differing arm angles, and stalled his motion to take velocity off his pitches in an attempt to gain control. It didn't work. Cabrera threw only 39 of his 94 pitches for strikes, and exited after 5 innings allowing 6 hits, 4 runs, 1 earned, 2 BB, and 2 K's.
Both of Cabrera's runs in the third innings were unearned. But after forcing in a run by walking Coste, who at days end is hitting .143 with only 2 RBI's (one being the charity he recieved for watching Cabrera play "catch me if you can" with Jesus Flores), and allowing Jamie Moyer to drive the ball deep enough to score a runner from third, I would imagine Cabrera would be the first to tell you that both runs were well deserved. And again to reiterate, if Jamie Moyer is driving the ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly, you know the stuff just wasn't that good.
While other pitchers make adjustments to what they throw, Cabrera makes adjustments to how he throws. And the results are never pretty. Cabrera is only valuable if he's gassing it up at 94-95 and getting ahead of batters to set up his inconsistent, but nasty secondary pitches. The Phightins' feasted on seemingly every diminished 87-91 MPH "get me over" fastball because Cabrera fell behind almost every hitter.
While the defense was terrible, its hard to overlook the Nats' deficiencies in all areas that require pitching the baseball. This loss falls on Cabrera's shoulders first and foremost, but miscues by Hernandez, Dunn, and the bullpen didn't help.
Homering for the Nats:
Dukes (1), Zimmerman (2), Dunn (2)
Player of the Game:
Christian Guzman: 5/5, 2 runs, 2 rbis, 1 SB (1)
Nats get a day off and will be back at it again Wednesday night at Nationals Park. Shairon Martis takes the bump and will face the Phillies' Joe Blanton. First pitch at 7:05.